The 5 Musts of Accessible Media

March 9, 2021

The 5 riders of accessible media

My experience in video production is mainly related to explainer videos and tutorials for a wide range of users — a lot of them older and in search of software instructions or educational materials.

Watching tons of videos, my observation is that not enough creators keep in mind accessibility and continue designing exclusive media content. In this article, we’re going to explore the main tools and guidelines for creating with care and understanding.

Sure, you have created a great video, but is it accessible for all of your viewers?
  • 15% of the world’s population has some sort of disability.
  • 70% of users feel either frustrated, let down, excluded, or upset by inaccessible entertainment.
  • 90% of websites and content are inaccessible to people with disabilities who rely on assistive technology.

Creating and distributing accessible content provides a number of tangible business benefits:

  • Your business opens up to a large segment of the population.
  • Your brand image is perceived as mindful and empathetic.
  • Customer satisfaction increases.
  • Your content aligns with many SEO best practices.
79% of people say they’ve been convinced to buy or download a piece of software or app by watching a video. (Wyzowl, 2021)

There are 5 crucial elements you should consider, to ensure your content is accessible:

  1. Descriptions and Warnings
  2. Captions and Transcripts
  3. Audio Descriptions
  4. Design and Visuals
  5. Video Players


Preparing a user for the content they’re about to encounter is essential when it comes to video.

To keep your viewers safe, inform them of any potential flashing, bright colors or sudden noises and sounds in the video. Don’t hesitate to put the warnings in the video description as well.

Give an overview of what the video is about. Good descriptions are not only beneficial for your SEO and bounce rate but are really important for providing the necessary preparation for your viewers.


85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound — (Digiday, 2016)

However, 41% of videos are incomprehensible without sound or captions.(Facebook, 2016)

Captions can improve content accessibility for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing, viewers who speak different languages, or the many who simply watch videos with the sound off. Captions can have the option to be turned on and off by the video player (closed), or be produced as a part of the video itself (open).

It’s a bad practice to rely on automatic subtitles, especially for narrators with a stronger accent. Invest in writing your captions or finding a professional to do it for you.

According to WebAIM, “captions should be:

  • Synchronized — the text content should appear at approximately the same time that audio would be available
  • Equivalent — content provided in captions should be equivalent to that of the spoken word
  • Accessible — caption content should be readily accessible and available to those who need it.”

In order to be optimally accessible to users with auditory disabilities, web multimedia should include both captions and a transcript.

The content of the transcript is identical to the spoken words in the multimedia itself. It’s important to note that, while some multimedia also includes a text description of important audio or visual details that take place at a particular time, this type of textual detail should not be included in a transcript. For accessibility purposes we want transcripts to be as simple as possible, so all that it contains are the words spoken by each entity.


3,5% of the population live with vision impairment

The youngest of the baby boomers will hit age 65 by 2029. By 2030, the number of people over the age of 65 will be 20% of the population. With the risk of low vision and blindness increasing significantly with age, this has huge implications for the increase of vision loss over the next several decades.

Currently, over 285 million people globally have some vision loss, of whom 39 million are blind. (3playmedia,2021)

Audio descriptions describe visual information (e.g., actions, body language, facial expressions, graphics). If you create videos with accessibility in mind, you can often avoid the need for separate audio descriptions. But if it’s necessary, It is important to think of users with visual disabilities and other users who rely on screen readers to access your content.

The audio descriptions should be provided in a way that does not interfere with other auditory tracks. While you can use a secondary audio track for this purpose, in some cases it may be easier to provide an alternate description version of the video: your two-channel version could have channel 1 as primary audio, with channel 2 being a descriptive narration, so that users can switch between them at will.

Sympathize with the person listening. Imagine listening to a podcast with a robotic and cold voice. In the new era of content automation, AI voice-overs provide a wide range of options. Don’t just be accessible, be friendly and welcoming.


Avoid fast-flashing content

Avoid flashing content in videos. Do not use videos that have more than three flashes within a period of 1 second, as this can provoke seizures in some users with photosensitive conditions.

People are even more sensitive to red flashing than to other colors, so a special test is provided for saturated red flashing. (Boia, Wcag 2.1-SC2.3.1)

Be Mindful of Colors

Color blindness could involve up to 1 in 20 visitors to your Web site. For this group, you run the risk of having a Web site that the text is barely legible and the images unrecognizable. (Jeanne Liu,2010)

Use colors that have a contrast ratio of at least 3:1 against their background. Your users can enable high contrast mode in their operating system, and the values you use need to work well in that context as well.

If color is used to convey meaning, make sure there is a text alternative for those who might be color blind or otherwise use technology like a screen reader in which color does not come through.

If you must distinguish things with color, ensure that these distinctions are also clear in black and white. To verify that you have met the necessary color contrast, try entering your color codes into WebAIM’s color contrast verifier.

Choose Readability
Display messages such as informative text and menus clearly with large, easy-to-read fonts.

  • Size — Choose a font that’s at least 16 pixels, or 12 points, and for an older audience — 19 pixels or 14 points.
  • Font — Choose familiar and simple fonts. Research is overall inconclusive if serif or sans serif is easier to read. However, some evidence suggests that serif fonts may make reading on the web more difficult for users with reading disorders.
  • Line height — To maximize readability, use a line height that is 130% to 150% larger than the font size.

Don’t rely too much on graphics
Avoid instructions relying on sensory characteristics, like size, color, visual orientation, or sound. This doesn’t mean your design should be non-existent. Focus on functional graphics, that add value, but don’t create dependency.


A popular choice for web developers is to use a well-supported media player that is known to have good accessibility support, in other words, an accessible media player.

According to WebAIM, “players need to:

  • Provide keyboard support
  • Make the keyboard focus indicator visible
  • Provide clear labels
  • Have sufficient contrast between colors for text, controls, and backgrounds

Some media players provide additional accessibility functionality to users such as:

  • Changing the speed of the video
  • Setting how captions are displayed (e.g., text style, text size, colors, and position of the captions)
  • Reading the captions with a screen-reader and braille device
  • Interactive transcripts”

Be as careful as possible when developing players for your website. Avoid the autoplay option, as it may be an unwanted surprise and cause discomfort to your visitors.

If you want to preview videos from external sources, like Youtube or Vimeo, make sure to check some of the services that provide the security for safely embedding and sharing videos.


Accessible media is essential for people with disabilities and is useful for everyone.

Always start with your viewer in mind, plan ahead and don’t skim on research and accessibility checklists.

WCAG guidelines state the minimum requirements, but it is our duty to exceed expectations and make everyone feel welcome. And that doesn’t mean your content becomes ugly or expensive...It becomes functional, caring and inclusive.

Ready to take off?